Monday, July 25, 2011

Holiness as redemptive covenant love/presence/action

I have a confession to make. When I read John Webster's 'Holiness', I loved it's theological reframing of holiness as God's redemptive purpose. For Webster, holiness is not 'seperateness', even for God. Or perhaps, Gods transcendent 'holiness' is really his being wholly and mercifully 'for us'. I like how it avoids opposing Gods holiness with his redemption. But to tell you the truth, I wasn't so sure of Websters exegetical footing, especially in the penteteuch. So whenever I wanted to put this kind of view across, I was always dragging out Hosea 11. Well, today I was reading the IVP 'Dictionary of the Old Testament: Penteteuch'. The article on 'Holy and Holiness, Clean and Unclean' by JE Hartley backs up Webster at almost every point. Holiness properly belongs to God, and the holiness of creatures comes from being swept up into his presence and purpose. The 'wrath' side of holiness is a minor note, as a function of the burning love of God that consumes all that destroys his people. The article is full of gems and well worth a read, especially before you trot out some rubbish in a sermon like 'to be holy is to be seperate'. I might even do a bit of a series on it


Luke Collings said...

A topic very close to heart, particularly as the holiness of God is tied in so closely with the sanctification of Christians (Jn 17:17-19).

Have to agree that Webster's book is a cracker. Haven't read Hartley, but if what you say is accurate then I'm liking it! The difficulty in the Pentatuech (as in much of the OT) the holiness of God is not defined but merely described in his Approach to humanity and his Redemption of them. You get the feeling that there is much more going on below the surface. It is teased out a bit more in deutero-Isaiah and the second half of Ezekiel, where the Holy God declares his redemptive intentions.

I think, especially following David Peterson's work, that we are better at not equating holiness with separateness, as we understand outselves as redeemed for a purpose. I'm not sure we have quite nailed the Approach/Presence stuff yet. Still thinking on this one...

Mike W said...

hey speaking of which, can I get a copy of your project